Firsts Maintain Excellent Home League Record with Bonus Point Win
A compelling match with two old adversaries battling it out in a high quality game.
Photograph courtesy of Tim Wilson, Spalding Today.
This was a clash of two old adversaries with Mansfield sitting one place above Spalding in Midlands Three East (North) league
Traditionally the visitors have always had a good set of forwards and on many occasions in the past have lead the way to dominate games. However Spalding have been going extremely well at home in the league this season and were looking to maintain this momentum
There was a welcome back to first team duty for lock Ash Piccaver who had picked up an injury in pre-season training and with Captain Dan Adams ruled out Tom Wilson was in at outside centre
As expected Spalding looked to take on the visitors and the front row of Jacob Greaves, John Barrett and Luke Turner started as they meant to go on having both the edge in the scrums and showing up well in the loose with their superior fitness.
Spalding played some excellent rugby in the opening minutes, retaining the ball, with good carries, pickups and drives around the rucks and soon found themselves deep in Mansfield territory. Flanker Ash Ankar using his strength drove over from 5 metres to open the scoring.
Scrum half Will Shields was enjoying an abundance of ball at the breakdown and giving space and time for fly half Conall Mason to bring the backs into play and it was this combination that set up a simple run in for winger Ben Shields to score in the corner.
A Mansfield response was expected as they started to use their forwards to gain territory but their ball from the breakdown was slow allowing Spalding to organise their defence. Midway through the first half Spalding’s determination was put to the test near their try line with a series of try saving tackles as the opposition forwards drove forward.
Having weathered the storm, Spalding regained territory and from a ruck Harry Sharman broke free, with support on his outside, threw a dummy pass and was over the try line. Mason's conversion meant Spalding had a half time lead of seventeen points.
Inside centre George Brown, with an ankle injury, was replaced by versatile George Berry moving from lock and, Harry Brown came off the bench to join the forwards but it was Mansfield who upped their game to dominate the opening period of the second half.
Their forwards had worked hard to gain territory and from the breakdown the ball was spread wide along the backs finding a gap in the defence. With a two on one, fullback George Douglas was outnumbered and Mansfield believed they were back in the game
They were stunned by the immediate response from Spalding right from the kick off. A high hanging restart kick by Mason allowed Ash Piccaver to claim the ball 30 metres from the try line. He broke free from the initial tackle, swept passed two further defenders and was over the try line. A wonder try!!!
Spalding were now rampaging upfield aiming to kill the game off. With the forward battle becoming fiery with no quarters being given by either set of forwards, the penalty count started to mount up, as the referee endeavoured to keep control
Spalding were kicking for touch and with the lineout now working well they were denied a couple of scoring opportunities
Coach George Reid brought on fresh legs with Josh Caley and Kieran Bailey replacing Luke Turner and Harry Cole and within a couple of minutes Bailey had made an impact. Finding himself in surprisingly open space 15 metres from the try line he was left with with a simple run in for a converted try
Spalding were now able to see out the final 10 minutes of the match to record an excellent win and move up to fourth in the league. Next week’s away match at league leaders, Nottingham Casuals, however, will be a real challenge but after this victory confidence should be high
Team Jacob Greaves, John Barrett, Luke Turner, Ash Piccaver, George Berry, Ash Ankar, Harry Cole, Harry Sharman, Will Shields, Conall Mason, Ben Shields, George Brown, Tom Wilson, Gav Sharman, George Douglas subs Kieran Bailey, Harry Brown, Josh Caley